Question: Whenever I go on holiday I always return with sunburn. I do try to be careful and I do use tanning lotion, but each year it’s the same old story. How can I best protect myself in the sun and what natural remedies would you recommend if I do get burnt?
17 September, 2008 – 18:53
Answer: Our skin is constantly under attack from what we might consider ‘normal’ exposure to the sun or ultraviolet light, so ideally we should be wearing sun screen at all times. Prolonged or unaccustomed exposure will only accelerate this process, causing sunburn initially but also premature ageing and possibly skin cancer in later life.
Above all make sure you are wearing a protective sunscreen lotion that is suitable for your skin type. This will vary depending on how fair or dark you are but generally speaking, the amount of sunlight you can take without burning is multiplied by the factor of the cream. You should also read the label carefully and reapply as often as is indicated.
Diet can also help. Foods rich in anti-oxidants can combat the oxidative damage caused to the skin when exposed to ultraviolet rays. Experts recommend 5 helpings of anti-oxidant rich foods a day. Fruit and vegetables have a naturally high content, especially berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries), red grapes, plums, kale, spinach, sprouts and broccoli.
Alternatively, you may prefer to take an anti-oxidant supplement. Pycnogenol, made from the bark of French pine trees, is probably the world’s most powerful anti-oxidant. Furthermore, recent Californian research shows that it can double the time it takes for the skin to burn, acting as an internal sunscreen.
If you are intent on sun bathing, you should do so very gradually and increase your exposure to the sun as your holiday progresses. This will allow your skin to produce more melanin, a dark-brown/black pigment that protects against further radiation. Supplements of beta-carotene can also increase the production of melanin.
Should the inevitable happen and you do get burned, alternative remedies can be very effective. In particular, the gel from Aloe, a long, green, fleshy plant from Africa can be applied topically to the affected area for a cooling effect. The gel is thought to stimulate cell growth and enhance the restoration of damaged skin.
Equally bicarbonate of soda can be applied to the affected area for an immediate soothing effect. Simply mix two dessert spoons of bicarb with a little water and mix into a thick paste. Drizzle the paste onto the burn and allow to set, before washing off with lukewarm water.
If sunburn is causing great pain, nausea or blistering, you should consult your GP.